Island life, island football
Our storyteller from São Tomé and Príncipe is Popody Mpouo, a photographer and marketer in the fields of sports, music and photography. From a very young age football was always part of his life. He told us about the present and future evolution of football in São Tomé and Príncipe.
Who is in the photos?
I tried to photograph the day-by-day of football in São Tomé, local league players and people in their moments of fun as well as football fans. In the photos are people who put themselves between my camera and me. Most of them I do not even know but we have something in common, the passion for football. In one of the photos is the DJ of a nightclub I attended and I discovered that he is also a soccer player and participates in the national championship.
Where were the photos taken?
Although we are two islands, São Tomé and Príncipe, all the photos were taken on the island of São Tomé, where I reside and cultivate my passion for football. There are photos taken on the soccer fields in and out of the city during the national championship, at Campo de Santa Margarida and Campo de Quartel. Others were taken on the beach during leisure time, at Praia Emília and Praia Perigosa.
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning with the photos?
I tried to show the reality of football in my country and the way this passion is lived - often generating joy, sometimes violence. In the background I wanted to show the identity of Santomean football and its characteristics. Most stadiums do not have fences or benches.
What is your favourite photo?
We can see young men and women playing together in local school uniforms. Even on school days, there is always time to kick the ball. It shows the essence of football, something that can surpass the barriers of religion and politics.
Are there any good stories connected with the people or teams you photographed?
The photos of the national championship football team have a special meaning for me, because it was the first direct contact I had with a national championship football team, the first time I could photograph freely. The coach was a colleague of mine and I knew that he had already trained two teams. Whenever we talked about football I promised him that I would watch a game of his team and that I would help him with photos to promote it on the social networks to win new fans or sponsors. And finally that day I went - I was happy because I was able to join two passions of mine in one moment.
Why is football so important for São Tomé and Príncipe and its people?
Football, as everywhere, is very important for São Tomé and Príncipe, due to everything it creates - fun, cultural and tourist promotion, emotions and money, which provide jobs for local people. Football arouses the same emotions that it arouses everywhere, so it is important for the passion it generates and the money that circulates around it.
What role does football play in São Tomé and Príncipe society?
In São Tomé, football plays the role of a means of interaction and communication between people. And being a source of inexhaustible leisure and pleasure, it makes the people of the islands forget their problems for at least 90 minutes. It also allows the promotion of the country abroad through the competitions of FIFA and CAF.
What does football mean to you?
Football comes down to happiness. The happiness of celebrating when my team scores or wins a game, the happiness of enjoying my favourite players, the happiness of being present at a stadium, the happiness of gathering my family and friends around a football game, and happiness of being able to photograph soccer players. It is an infinite of happiness.
What is the future for São Tomé and Príncipe football?
In São Tomé and Príncipe, we still need to go a long way towards achieving excellence or acceptable standards in football. There is still a lot to do, because the structure already exists, but we are lacking efficient and effective management. I see a grey future in football in São Tomé and Príncipe, because we are still behind by acceptable standards and now I see that there is a certain political interference in it.
But in the future I hope football in São Tomé and Príncipe to be capable of educating men and women, a football away from politics, a football that can develop and value talents that have been lost over the years.